At Science Online 2012, one of my favorite seminars was about blogging in the developing world. Since many of the bloggers were also practicing researchers, an important question came up: when doing field work in a developing country, what is the best way to give back?
Since I work for an academic publication, my first thought was information access. Just as Timothy Gowers of Cambridge University is frustrated that his colleagues cannot access his research without paying subscription fees, the same problem is magnified in the developing world.
The simple answer to this problem is Research4Life. Research4Life is the collective name for HINARI, AGORA, OARE and ARDI, four programs that provide developing countries access to peer-reviewed content for free, or at a heavily discounted rate.
In September, JoVE partnered with HINARI, the health and life sciences information access program. Founded by the World Health Organization in 2002, HINARI focuses on providing up-to-date biomedical research to countries in South America, Asia, and Africa. In 2011 alone, ten new publishers partnered with HINARI, adding 1180 new journals and 7000 new books to their collection.
As the testimonials show, access to this research can have a huge impact on scientists in developing countries.
“Without access to scientific information, it is impossible to formulate relevant research topics and write and publish quality scientific articles,” said Dr. Sami Hyacinthe Kambire from Burkina Faso. “It is impossible to work effectively as a researcher.”
So, my suggestion for those doing research in the developing world, who would like to give something back to the country in which they work? Publish in a journal that partners with a Research4Life program. It may seem small, but access to research, particularly research conducted in their own country, can have a huge impact for scientists in the developing world.